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Disrupting the data market: Interview with EXASOL’s CEO Aaron Auld




Processing data fast and efficiently has become a never ending race. With the increasing need for data consumption by companies comes along a never ending “need for speed” for processing data and consequently, the emergence of new generation of database software solutions that emerging to fulfill this need for high performance data processing.

These new database management systems that incorporate novel technology provide high speed, and more efficient access and processing of large bulks of data.

EXASOL is one of this disruptive "new" database solution. Headquartered out of Nuremberg, Germany and with offices around the globe, EXASOL has worked hard to bring a fresh, new approach to the data analytics market via the offering of a world-class database solution.

In this interview, we took the opportunity to chat with EXASOL’s Aaron Auld about the company and its innovative database solution.

Aaron Auld is the Chief Executive Officer as well as the Chairman of the Board at EXASOL, positions he has held since July 2013. He was made a board member in 2009.

As CEO and Chairman, Aaron is responsible for the strategic direction and execution of the company, as well as growing the business internationally.

Aaron embarked on his career back in 1996 at MAN Technologie AG, where he worked on large industrial projects and M&A transactions in the aerospace sector. Subsequently, he worked for the law firm Eckner-Bähr & Colleagues in the field of corporate law.

After that, the native Brit joined Océ Printing Systems GmbH as legal counsel for sales, software, R&D and IT. He then moved to Océ Holding Germany and took over the global software business as head of corporate counsel. Aaron was also involved in the IPO (Prime Standard) of Primion Technology AG in a legal capacity, and led investment management and investor relations.

Aaron studied law at the Universities of Munich and St. Gallen. Passionate about nature, Aaron likes nothing more than to relax by walking or sailing and is interested in politics and history.

So, what is EXASOL and what is the story behind it?

EXASOL is a technology vendor that develops a high-performance in-memory analytic database that was built from the ground up to analyze large volumes of data extremely fast and with a high degree of flexibility.
The company was founded back in the early 2000's in Nuremberg, Germany, and went to market with the first version of the analytic database in 2008.

Now in its sixth generation, EXASOL continues to develop and market the in-memory analytic database working with organizations across the globe to help them derive business insight from their data that helps them to drive their businesses forward.
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How does the database work? Could you tell us some of the main features?

We have always focused on delivering an analytic database ultra-fast, massively scalable analytic performance. The database combines in-memory, columnar storage and massively parallel processing technologies to provide unrivaled performance, flexibility and scalability.

The database is tuning-free and therefore helps to reduce the total cost of ownership while enabling users to solve analytical tasks instead of having to cope with technical limits and constraints.

With the recently-announced version 6, the database now offers a data virtualization and data integration framework which allows users to connect to more data sources than ever before.

Also, alongside out-of-the-box support for R, Lua, Python and Java, users can integrate the analytics programming language of their choice and use it for in-database analytics.

Especially today, speed of data processing is important. I’ve read EXASOL has taken some benchmarks in this regard. Could you tell us more about it?

One of the truly independent set of benchmark tests available is offered by the Transactional Processing Council (TPC).  A few years ago we decided to take part in the TPC-H benchmark and ever since we have topped the tables in terms of not only performance (i.e. analytic speeds) but also in terms of price/performance (i.e. cost aligned with speed) when analyzing data volumes ranging from 100GB right up to 100TB.   No other database vendor comes close.
The information is available online here.

One of the features of EXASOL is that, if I’m not mistaken, is deployed on commodity hardware. How does EXASOL’s design guarantee optimal performance and reliability?

Offering flexible deployment models in terms of how businesses can benefit from EXASOL has always been important to us at EXASOL.

Years ago, the concept of the data warehouse appliance was talked about as the optimum deployment model, but in most cases it meant that vendors were forcing users to use their database on bespoke hardware, on hardware that then could not be re-purposed for any other task.  Things have changed since: while the appliance model is still offered, ours is and always has been one that uses commodity hardware.

Of course, users are free to download our software and install it on their own hardware too.
It all makes for a more open and transparent framework where there is no vendor lock-in, and for users that can only be a good thing.  What’s more, because the hardware and chip vendors are always innovating, when a new processor or server is released, users only stand to benefit as they will see yet even faster performance when they run EXASOL on that new technology.
We recently discussed this in a promotional video for Intel.

Price point related, is it intended only for large organizations, what about medium and small ones with needs for fast data processing?

We work with organizations both large and small.  The common denominator is always that they have an issue with their data analytics or incumbent database technology and that they just cannot get answers to their analytic queries fast enough.

Price-wise, our analytic database is extremely competitively priced and we offer organizations of all shapes and sizes to use our database software on terms that best fit their own requirements, be that via a perpetual license model, a subscription model, a bring-your-own license model (BYOL) – whether on-premises or in the cloud.

What would be a minimal configuration example? Server, user licensing etc.?

Users can get started today with the EXASOL Free Small Business Edition.  It is a single-node only edition of the database software and users can pin up to 200GB of data into RAM.

Given that we advocate a 1:10 ratio of RAM vs raw data volume, this means that users can put 2TB of raw data into their EXASOL database instance and still get unrivaled analytic performance on their data – all for free. There are no limitations in terms of users.

We believe this is a very compelling advantage for businesses that want to get started with EXASOL.

Later, when data volumes grow and when businesses want to make use of advanced features such as in-database analytics or data virtualization, users can then upgrade to the EXASOL Enterprise Cluster Edition which offers much more in terms of functionality.

Regarding big data requirements, could you tell us some of the possibilities to integrate or connect EXASOL with big data sources/repositories such as Hadoop and others?

EXASOL can be easily integrated into every IT infrastructure.  It is SQL-compliant and, is compatible with leading BI and ETL products such as Tableau, MicroStrategy, Birst, IBM Cognos, SAP BusinessObjects, Alteryx, Informatica, Talend, Looker and Pentaho, and provides the most flexible Hadoop connector on the market.

Furthermore, through an extensive data virtualization and integration framework, users can now analyze data from more sources more easily and faster than ever before.

Recently, the company announced that EXASOL is now available on Amazon. Could you tell us a bit more about the news? EXASOL is also available on Azure, right?

As more and more organizations are deploying applications and their systems in the cloud, it’s therefore important that we can allow them to use EXASOL in the cloud, too.  As a result, we are now available on Amazon Web Services as well as Microsoft Azure.  What’s more, we continue to offer our own cloud and hosting environment, which we call EXACloud.

Finally, on a more personal topic. Being a Scot who lives in Germany, would you go for a German beer or a Scottish whisky?

That’s an easy one.  First enjoy a nice German beer (ideally, one from a Munich brewery) before dinner, then round the evening off with by savoring a nice Scottish whisky.  The best of both worlds.

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